Codex Theodosianus (Eng. Theodosian Code) was a compilation of the
laws of the
Roman Empire under the
Christian emperors since 312. A
commission was established by
Theodosius II and his co-emperor
Valentinian III on 26 March 429 and the compilation was
published by a constitution of 15 February 438. It went into force in
the eastern and western parts of the empire on 1 January 439.
5 English translation
6 See also
9 External links
On March 26, 429, Emperor
Theodosius II announced to the senate of
Constantinople his intentions to form a committee to codify all of the
laws (leges, singular lex) from the reign of Constantine up to
Theodosius II and Valentinian III. Twenty-two scholars, working in two
teams, worked for nine years starting in 429 to assemble what was to
become the Theodosian Code. The chief overseer of the work was
Antiochus Chuzon, a lawyer and a
Consul from Antioch.
Their product was a collection of 16 books containing more than 2,500
constitutions issued between 313 and 437. John F. Matthews illustrates
the importance of Theodosius' Code when he said, "the Theodosian Code
was the first occasion since the
Twelve Tables on which a Roman
government had attempted by public authority to collect and publish
its leges." The code covers political, socioeconomic, cultural and
religious subjects of the 4th and 5th century in the Roman Empire.
A collection of imperial enactments called the
Codex Gregorianus had
been written in c. 291-4 and the Codex Hermogenianus, a limited
collection of rescripts from c. 295, was published. Theodosius
desired to create a code that would provide greater insight into law
during the later Empire (321-429). According to Peter Stein,
"Theodosius was perturbed at the low state of legal skill in his
empire of the East." He apparently started a school of law at
Constantinople. In 429 he assigned a commission to collect all
imperial constitutions since the time of Constantine. The laws in
the code span from 312-438, so by 438 the "volume of imperial law had
During the process of gathering the vast amount of material, often
editors would have multiple copies of the same law. In addition to
this, the source material the editors were drawing upon changed over
Clifford Ando notes that according to Matthews, the editors
"displayed a reliance on western provincial sources through the late
4th century and on central, eastern archives thereafter."
After six years an initial version was finished in 435, but it was not
published, instead it was improved upon and expanded and finally
finished in 438 and taken to the Senate in Rome and Constantinople.
Matthews believes that the two attempts are not a result of a failed
first attempt, but instead the second attempt shows "reiteration and
refinement of the original goals at a new stage in the editorial
process." Others have put forth alternate theories to explain the
lengthy editorial process and two different commissions. Boudewijn
Sirks believes that "the code was compiled from imperial copy books
found at Constantinople, Rome, or Ravenna, supplemented by material at
a few private collections, and that the delays were caused by such
problems as verifying the accuracy of the text and improving the legal
coherence of the work."
The tone of the work reflected the rhetorical training that the
drafters had received and
Averil Cameron has described it as "verbose,
moralizing and pretentious".
The Code was written in
Latin and referred explicitly to the two
capitals of Constantinople (Constantinopolitana) and Rome (Roma).
It was also concerned with the imposition of orthodoxy - the Arian
controversy was ongoing - within the
Christian religion and contains
65 decrees directed at heretics.
Originally, Theodosius had attempted to commission leges generales
beginning with Constantine to be used as a supplement for the Codex
Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus. He intended to supplement the
legal codes with the opinions and writings of ancient Roman Jurists,
much like the Digest found later in Justinian's Code. But the task
proved to be too great, and in 435 it was decided to concentrate
solely on the laws from Constantine to the time of writing. This
decision defined the greatest difference between the Theodosian Code
and Justinian's later Corpus Juris Civilis.
John F. Matthews observes, "The Theodosian Code does, however, differ
from the work of Justinian (except the Novellae), in that it was
largely based not on existing juristic writings and collections of
texts, but on primary sources that had never before been brought
together." Justinian’s Code, published about 100 years later,
comprised both ius, "law as an interpretive discipline", and leges,
"the primary legislation upon which the interpretation was based."
While the first part, or Codex, of Justinian’s Corpus Civilis Juris
contained 12 books of constitutions, or imperial laws, the second and
third parts, the Digest and the Institutiones, contained the ius of
Classical Roman jurists and the Institutes of Gaius.
While the Theodosian Code may seem to lack a personal facet due to the
absence of judicial reviews, upon further review the legal code gives
insight into Theodosius' motives behind the codification. Lenski
quotes Matthews as noting that the "imperial constitutions represented
not only prescriptive legal formulas but also descriptive
pronouncements of an emperor’s moral and ideological
Apart from clearing up confusion and creating a single, simplified and
Theodosius II was also attempting to solidify
Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, after it had been
decriminalised under Galerius' rule and promoted under Constantine's.
In his City of God,
St. Augustine praised Theodosius the Great,
Theodosius II's grandfather, who shared his faith and devotion to its
establishment, as "a
Christian ruler whose piety was expressed by the
laws he had issued in favor of the Catholic Church."
The Codex Theodosianus, is, for example, explicit in ordering that all
actions at law should cease during Holy Week, and the doors of all
courts of law be closed during those 15 days (1. ii. tit. viii.).
Books 1-5 lack the level of manuscript support available for books
6-16. The first five books of the surviving Codex draw largely from
two other manuscripts. The Turin manuscript, also known as "T,"
consists of 43, largely discontinuous folios. The second
manuscript is the Breviary of Alaric, and a good part of the
Breviarium that is included in book 1 actually contains the original
text of the respective part of the original codex.
The latter part of the Codex, books 6-16, drew largely from two texts
as well. Books 6-8 of the Codex were preserved in the text of a
document known as Parsinus 9643. The document circulated early
medieval French libraries, as well as the other formative document for
the latter part of the code, a document held in the Vatican (Vat. Reg.
886), also known as "V". Scholars consider this section to have
been transmitted completely.
The Theodosian Code was translated into English, with annotations, in
Clyde Pharr and others.
^ a b c d "Codex Theodosianus" in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium,
Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1991, p. 475.
^ LacusCurtius • Roman Law — Theodosian Code (Smith's Dictionary,
^ Lenski, pg. 337-340
^ "Antiochus Chuzon" in The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Online
edition. Oxford University Press, 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
^ Matthews, p. 17
^ Matthews, pg. 10-18
^ Peter Stein, pp. 37-38
^ Susan Martin, p. 510
^ Clifford Ando, p. 200
^ Michael Alexander, p. 191
^ Michael Alexander, p. 191-193
^ Cameron, A. (1998) "Education and literary culture" in Cameron, A.
and Garnsey, P. (eds.) The Cambridge ancient history: Vol. XIII The
late empire, A.D. 337-425. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.
^ Tituli Ex Corpore Codici Theodosiani
^ Mango, Cyril, (2002) Oxford History of Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, p. 105
^ Matthews, p. 12
^ Matthews, pp. 10-12
^ Lenski, pg. 331
^ Matthew, p. 8
^ a b Matthews, pp. 87
^ a b c Matthews, pp. 86
Clyde Pharr (in collaboration with Theresa S. Davidson and Mary B.
Pharr), The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian
Constitutions, a Translation with a Commentary, Glossary and
Bibliography (1952). For a description of how this project was carried
out, see Linda Jones Hall, "Clyde Pharr, the Women of Vanderbilt, and
the Wyoming Judge: the Story behind the Translation of the Theodosian
Code in Mid-Century America, 8 Roman Legal Tradition 1, 3 (2012),
available at . See also Timothy Kearley, "Justice
Fred Blume and
the Translation of Justinian's Code," 99 Law Library Journal 525,
536-545 (2007), available at .
ACTI. Auxilium in Codices Theodosianum Iustinianumque investigandos,
Iole Fargnoli (cur.), LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano 2009,
Alexander, Michael C. (Spring 1995). "Review: The Theodosian Code by
Jill Harries; Ian Wood". Law and History Review. University of
Illinois Press. 13 (1): 190–192. doi:10.2307/743979.
Buckland, W. W. (1993). A Textbook of Roman Law from Augustus to
Justinian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lenski, Noel (February–March 2003). "Review: Laying Down the Law. A
Study of the Theodosian Code by John Matthews". The Classical Journal.
The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. 98 (3):
Martin, Susan D. (October 1995). "Review: The Theodosian Code by Jill
Harries; Ian Wood". The American Journal of Legal History. Temple
University. 39 (4): 510–511.
Matthews, John F. (2000). Laying Down the Law: A Study of the
Theodosian Code. New York, NY: Yale University Press.
Tellegen-Couperus, Olga (1993). A Short History of Roman Law. New
York, NY: Routledge. pp. 138–141.
Codex Theodosianus. Liber V - Le Code Théodosien, Livre V. Texte
latin d'après l'édition de Th. Mommsen. Traduction française,
introduction et notes. Éd. par Sylvie Crogiez, Pierre Jaillette,
Jean-Michel Poinsotte. Turnout, Brepols, 2009 (
Codex Theodosianus - Le
Code Théodosien (CTH), vol. 5).
Codex Theodosianus (Latin), ancientrome.ru.
Codex Theodosianus (Latin) Ed. Mommsen, Meyer, & Krueger (Latin).
(in English) A list of imperial laws of 311 until 431 contains
summaries of many laws involving religion from the Theodosian code and
other sources, in chronological order.
Codex Theodosianus XI-7-13; XV-5-1, -12-1; XVI-1-2, -5-1,
-5-3, -7-1, -10-4 (on Religion), English translation Oliver J.
Thatcher e.a., 1907. Website fordham.edu.
Codex Theodosianus by George Long in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman
Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.
Codex Theodosianus Information on the code and its manuscript
tradition on the Bibliotheca legum regni Francorum manuscripta
website. A database on Carolingian secular law texts (Karl Ubl,
Cologne University, Germany).